Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Water sustainability not all it`s cracked up to be

11.04.2002


Sustainability may not be all it’s cracked up to be. That is the message in a recent paper by a hydrogeologist at Reading University . Michael Price argues that most human advances have been non-sustainable in the long term and that when we talk of ‘sustainable use’ we must define the period over which the use is planned or implemented.

Price identifies three major challenges currently facing Britain and the world. The first is that the climate, and with it the supply of water, is becoming less predictable. Since 1975 Great Britain has suffered four droughts, each of which has been estimated to have a return period of more than 200 years. In 2000-1, parts of England experienced some of the worst instances of flooding on record. Global climate models predict that we can expect more droughts and more periods of heavy rainfall accompanied by increased occurrences of flooding.

The second challenge is that the global demand for fresh water will increase, as population increases and the standard of living improves. It has been argued that in Britain we can counter this increased demand by metering water and making it more expensive. However, consumption of water per head of population in Britain is below that of many other developed countries where domestic water is metered. The stark truth is that demand for water is almost directly related to prosperity - as disposable income increases, water use increases.



The third fact is that concern for the environment has increased and is likely to go on increasing. This too is a reflection of increased prosperity and - for at least some of the population - increased leisure time to spend enjoying the countryside and thinking about environmental issues. Price accepts the need for some form of sustainable approach to water use to protect the environment, but concludes that
  1. Sustainability should not be seen as an end in itself. Most human advances have not been sustainable in the long term; rather, mankind has advanced by a series of unsustainable developments.

  2. It follows that when we talk of sustainability, we should define the time period over which we are measuring sustainability

  3. Resources traditionally have been exploited by the first people to need them and to have the technology to use them.

  4. Although bad planning decisions play a part, environmental problems are usually the result of a conflict of legitimate interests rather than deliberate lack of concern for environmental well being.

  5. The best ways to ensure sustainable use of water are to re-use water after abstraction and to reduce irrigated agriculture wherever possible in favour of rain-fed agriculture. The first essentially means some form of re-use of sewage effluent and will require a change in public attitude; Price argues that it is pointless to treat sewage to very high standards only to pipe it out to sea. The second will require a change in economic approach that is outside the control of hydrologists and water engineers.

  6. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we should remember that a water environment that was sustainable under one climatic regime may become unsustainable if - or when - the climate changes. Water tables will rise and fall and stream networks expand and shrink depending on the amounts of recharge. If the changes are short-term fluctuations, groundwater storage will be important in helping to ameliorate the effects on both the environment and water supplies. If the climatic changes are long-term trends, then no amount of planning or legislation will prevent the resulting changes to the environment.

Sue Rayner | alphagalileo

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

CCNY physicists master unexplored electron property

26.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Molecular microscopy illuminates molecular motor motion

26.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Large-Mouthed Fish Was Top Predator After Mass Extinction

26.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>